An Elizabeth man has been charged in connection with three homicides and one non-fatal shooting that occurred during a shooting spree in Elizabeth on Thursday, June 25, 2015, and has also been charged in a homicide that occurred in Elizabeth on May 18, 2015, Acting Union County Prosecutor Grace H. Park and Elizabeth Police Chief Patrick Shannon announced Thursday.
Todd West, 22, was charged with murder and multiple weapons offenses in connection with the June 25th shooting deaths of 28 year-old Dennis Vega of Elizabeth; 29 year-old Jamil Payne of Elizabeth; 32 year-old Kelvin Nelson of Elizabeth; and the May 18th shooting death of 29 year-old Michael Thompkins. West is also charged with attempted murder and weapons offenses in the June 25th shooting of 24 year-old Richard Marte of Elizabeth.
Park noted that the tragic events of June 25th in Elizabeth began to unfold when, at approximately 2:30 a.m., Elizabeth Police received frantic calls from witnesses who heard gunshots and reported that a man was lying on the ground at the intersection of New Point Road and Seventh Street. Upon arrival, it was determined that the man, later identified as victim Dennis Vega, had been shot several times and was soon thereafter pronounced dead.
Later that night, shortly after 9:50 p.m., Elizabeth Police Department units responded to the area of Sixth Street and South Park Street in response to calls about shots being fired and an individual lying on the ground. Upon arrival, the units immediately located the victim Jamil Payne lying in the middle of South Park Street suffering from multiple gunshot wounds. Mr. Payne was pronounced dead at the scene.
About an hour later, at just before 10:50 p.m., while investigators were still on scene at the location of Payne’s shooting, the Elizabeth Police Department received calls about shots being fired in front of 320 Clark Place, less than a mile away from Payne’s murder. Law enforcement personnel from several agencies reached the scene and immediately discovered Kelvin Nelson deceased after having been shot numerous times. Less than ten minutes after the first reports of Kelvin Nelson’s shooting, Elizabeth Police Dispatch received yet another call indicating that several shots had been fired, this time at the intersection of Jackson Avenue and Julia Street. Upon their arrival, officers observed the victim, Richard Marte, alive and suffering from severe gunshot wounds. Mr. Marte was taken to a local hospital and treated for his injuries and is expected to survive, Acting Prosecutor Park noted. As the investigation of the shootings unfolded, it became clear that a white, 2013 Buick LaCrosse was used at or identified in the immediate vicinity of each shooting. There was no information as to who the owner or operator of that vehicle was at the time. The investigation also later revealed that the same .38 caliber, six-shot revolver was used in all of the June 25th shootings.
An exceptional, exhaustive investigation conducted by members of the Union County Prosecutor’s Office, in conjunction with the Elizabeth Police Department, with the able assistance of the Union County Police Department and Sheriff’s Office, revealed that Todd West was responsible for the June 25th murder of Jamil Payne. On July 2nd, a complaint and arrest warrant for the murder of Payne was signed by Union County Superior Court Judge William A. Daniel. Mr. West had fled the area prior to the issuance of the warrants and was the subject of an intensive manhunt by Union County authorities.
On July 6th, Todd West was apprehended by the authorities in Allentown Pennsylvania, where he is currently in custody for the murder of two individuals in Allentown, and one person in Easton, Pennsylvania.
The thorough, continuous investigation by the Union County Prosecutor’s Office Homicide Task Force and the aforementioned agencies led to additional murder, attempted-murder and weapons charges for the June 25th shooting spree.
Moreover, due to the follow-up of the investigations of the June 25th shootings, law enforcement was also able to establish that West was responsible for the murder of his cousin, 29 year-old Michael Thompkins, who was found shot to death in a second-floor hallway of his apartment building on Parker Road in Elizabeth on May 18th.
On July 8th, complaints and arrest warrants for the murders of Dennis Vega, Kelvin Nelson and Michael Thompkins, as well as for the attempted murder of Richard Marte, were signed by Union County Superior Court Judge Stuart Peim.
West is currently being housed in the Lehigh County Jail without bail pending further proceedings in Pennsylvania. No court date has been set in Union County, and cumulative bail for all of his New Jersey charges stands at $5.5 million.
The murders of Mr. Thompkins, Payne, Vega and Nelson, and the shooting of Mr. Marte remain under joint investigation by the Union County Homicide Task Force and the Elizabeth Police Department. Anyone with information about this matter is being urged to contact Union County Prosecutor’s Office Homicide Task Force Detective Sgt. Jose Vendas at (908) 358-3048, Union County Prosecutor’s Office Homicide Task Force Detective Danika Ramos at (908) 451-7739, or Union County Prosecutor’s Office Homicide Task Force Detective Andrew Dellaquila (973) 274-5771.
Acting Prosecutor Park would like to thank and recognize the hard work and tireless efforts of the members of the Union County Prosecutor’s Office Homicide Task Force; The Elizabeth Police Department; The Union County Sheriff’s Office; The Union County Police Department; and members of various law enforcement agencies in both Lehigh and Northampton Counties in Pennsylvania.
These criminal charges are mere accusations. The defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.